Wired Calls Baltimore America’s Spy Tech Laboratory

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A Stingray cell tower simulator
A Stingray cell tower simulator

Tech magazine Wired has noticed that Baltimore seems obsessed with surveillance, and it even thinks it knows why.

There’s a reason Baltimore has become “the crucible of America’s domestic spying.” In fact, according to an article in Wired, there are several.

“It turns out that Baltimore checks off all the requirements to build a modern American urban panopticon,” writes Lily Hay Newman. Those are: “high crime rates, racially biased policing, strained community-police relations, and lack of police oversight.

It seems there’s always a new story out about the Baltimore Police Department’s questionable use of surveillance technology. (In fact, one about mass social-media monitoring came out yesterday, after the Wired article was published.) Baltimore has been tracking cellphone use secretly and without a warrant. They’ve also been secretly watching from the air.

Newman connects the dots between these articles, the Department of Justice’s recent report on Baltimore’s history of biased policing, and police accounts to show what makes the technology attractive and viable.

If Peter Moskos’s 2008 account of policing in Baltimore, Cop in the Hood, is to be believed, “nobody [in Baltimore] will talk to police. Half the public hates us. The other half is scared to talk to us.” Faced with a high crime rate and an uncooperative public, police have turned to surveillance technology to gather information. And a lack of transparency and oversight has allowed the practices to flourish in secret.

The DOJ’s report faulted the city for “systemic deficiencies in BPD’s policies, training, supervision, and accountability structures that fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of the federal law.” Baltimore’s police practices can be so opaque that even Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake claimed she was unaware of the aerial surveillance program until she read about it in an investigative article.

 



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